The members of the progressive-punk band Chess at Breakfast have always been DIY till death. “And now we’re dying!” bassist Justin Daggett says, laughing. After a successful stint as one of Fort Collins’s most popular rock bands, the act is calling it quits.
Chess at Breakfast has been making challenging, conceptual music driven by heavy guitars, changing time signatures and macabre storytelling since its 2017 EP, The Gutshalls.
Ever self-deprecating, Chess at Breakfast describes itself as “the worst band in the world.” It put out an MTV Cribs-style promotional video for the July 2 album-release show at the Aggie Theatre and a Time-Life commercial parody of the bandmates poorly singing classics “I’ve Had (The Time of My Life)” and “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” for a vinyl Kickstarter campaign. There’s even an Anti Chess at Breakfast Instagram account, not run by the band, that shares memes and posts ripping the group a new one.
“Over the years, we’ve developed a small cult following here,” frontman Caleb McFadden says. “We’ve become that dark, funny band that some people like. It’s nice to be seen as those guys who don’t give a fuck about the rules and have fun with how we promote ourselves.”
For the Monsters Are People art, the band used self-portraits of photographer Kim Desmond.
The bandmates’ split isn’t caused by fatigue following the challenges of 2020. Instead, the musicians say that after three records, the decision to part ways happened naturally as they began heading in different creative directions. McFadden is moving to Portland and taking his two side projects, St. Faint and Goth Club, with him. He’s been releasing ’80s dance and goth-inspired songs as Goth Club since 2019, and St. Faint is a new acoustic project he’s getting off the ground. Drummer Mike Davis is moving to Denver to pursue new music and opportunities, and Daggett is pursuing a degree in music education at the University of Northern Colorado.
They’re capping off their five years as a band with Monsters Are People, a record that channels raw noise and experimentation into a dense, feverish concept album, the kind of record the band has wanted to make since its debut. Chess at Breakfast can be counted on to write songs bigger than itself; the bandmates have always had an affinity for grand, conceptual songwriting that takes on the perspective of different characters, creating commentary on bigger issues. The outfit’s previous LP, Wealthcare, uses personal stories to make political statements and observations about the state of the country in 2019.
“Monsters Are People is our loudest, most diverse, and most pared-down album,” McFadden notes. “We spent a lot of time editing it and getting it to the right set of tracks in order to tell the story.”
“We got the softest, hardest and nastiest on this album,” Daggett adds.
The bandmates entered the studio, adamant about making an honest album that they could easily reproduce live. The disc follows the story of a family and the people connected to it, exploring the origins of dark behavior and actions with an empathetic and omnipotent edge.
“I think of the concept behind the album as everyone making mistakes and people doing shitty things, but looking wider at what brought them there. What kind of people around them are doing the same things, starting and continuing the cycle?” drummer Mike Davis says.
“Tough Love, Bub,” one of the album’s catchiest tracks, is written from the perspective of a preacher who, despite being a man of God, is plagued by some of the darkest thoughts and actions imaginable. “There are no guarantees,” Davis says about the song. “Just because you’re devout [about] something, doesn’t mean you’re exempt from monstrous behavior.”
The band caps off its last album with a headlining show at the Aggie Theatre on July 2. Supported by People in General, a Fort Collins-based jazz-pop band, Chess at Breakfast will play two sets: one of material from The Gutshalls and Wealthcare, and the second will be Monsters Are People front to back. The show will celebrate every era of the band, showing off its guttural, aggressive live shows with guest guitarist Colin Farnsworth filling out the lineup.
“I’m really impressed by the fans we’ve been able to amass up here [by] making louder, more challenging music,” McFadden says. “When we first started, there were a lot of bands close to our sound and in our scene. A lot of that has waned over the last five years, and venues up here have been resistant to change, relying more on bluegrass and jam bands.”
“I’ve met a decent amount of people who’ve told us that we’re their favorite band in town, which always feels so good,” Davis notes. “It means so much.”
“It’s good to know that other people in town have shit taste in music,” McFadden adds, laughing. “Thank you. We’re not the only ones!”
Chess at Breakfast and People in General play at 8 p.m. on July 2 at the Aggie Theatere, 204 South College Avenue in Fort Collins. Tickets are $30 and available at the theater’s website.
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